By Ashley Teatum
Arrive at Lighthouse one hour before your event. Find two volunteers already in the process of setting up tables and chairs. Jump in by creating an assembly line from chair rack to volunteers.
Track down coordinator Dan Manzanares for additional assignments. He’s the bald one not named Mike Henry.
Retrieve box of wine bottles and beer from Grotto storage room. Understand you will more than likely return to this room several times over the course of the night for more wine or just one moment of solitude and stillness.
Just… Just one moment.
Place wine and beer bottles in giant silver tub. Pour ice over bottles. Be prepared for a sound not unlike lobsters tap dancing on a tin roof when pouring ice into giant silver tub. Endure stares from nearby writers who are trying to focus.
Display bottle openers prominently near giant silver tub. This step is crucial for reasons we feel we do not have to expound upon here.
Receive instruction from another volunteer to find X item. Spend 20 minutes wandering the house in search of X item. Open every drawer and every cupboard on every floor. Look even in places where you know X item will not be. Find X item like five seconds after staff member just tells you where X item lives.
Station yourself and other volunteers at all possible entrances to check in attendees. Break into a gentle run to follow writers who slip by your station without being checked in, and kindly ask for their last name as you catch your breath.
Give the iPad swipe three chances to work before deciding to manually enter every credit card used to purchase event tickets. Make quips about “Spending an extra 30 seconds gazing longingly at me” as the line backs up to the sidewalk and the sweat beads on your brow.
Begin to count how many writers have ambled to the food table. Muse about which is louder: the motorcycles that blare by on Race Street during poignant readings or your stomach.
Recognize faculty members and greet them accordingly (with deference, and familiarity, and a little awe). Let them know you enjoyed a class they took or an event they led or a book of theirs you finished reading. Grin as they give you hugs.
Addendum: Writer hugs are lovely.
Two minutes after the event should have started, instruct each cluster of chatting writers that they can begin making their way to the event space (i.e., tent, Grotto). N.B.: Shouting these instructions into the crowd will only frighten and scatter the writers, making it harder to regroup them and get the evening started.
Spend the first 15 minutes of the event eating leftovers and tidying up small areas to (theoretically) expedite post-event cleanup.
Stand at the back of the event space and point out open chairs to breathless late-comers.
Shift from one foot to the other. Remind yourself you sat most of the day, so a couple of hours of standing will do you good.
Enjoy the event. Learn something different. Emit a guttural “mmm” at especially insightful pronouncements. Nurse a healthy envy. Imagine being a panelist/reader. Plot.
As attendees applaud and exit the event space, begin to collect cups, plates, napkins, programs, and other debris from among the chairs and legs of writers. Stop every so often to chat with folks you recognize or even those whose faces look brand new to you.
Stack chairs precariously. Wield tables like shields across the parking lot. Stand in the driveway 20 minutes past the end of your shift talking with volunteers and veterans you didn’t get to see earlier.
Trudge down Race Street, exhausted, but incredibly thrilled to have spent your evening at Lighthouse.
By day, Ashley Teatum is a mild-mannered proposal coordinator for a construction company. By night, she’s still mild-mannered, but writes short stories and creative nonfiction. Her happy place is a grassy, open field with hundreds of hot dogs dressed as hot dogs romping about.